Today’s bombshell release of intelligence documents plainly stating that Russian intelligence compromises Republican President-elect Donald Trump begs a far bigger question: Why did the FBI withhold these earthshaking allegations about Trump entirely, while Director James Comey instead chose to issue a damning partisan memo widely acknowledged to have cost Hillary Clinton the election instead?
Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent a scathing public letter to the FBI demanding to know why they sat on news that we now know indicates that Russian blackmail entirely compromises Donald Trump. As you can see in full below, the 35-page report cites a “golden showers” party with prostitutes in the Moscow Ritz Carlton’s presidential suite as one of the reasons why Russian intelligence has the President-elect over a barrel.
The double standard established by your actions is clear. In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity.
The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.
Senator Reid wasn’t the only one demanding to know why the FBI refused to admit that they had investigations of Donald Trump running. In September 2016, Vice News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after receiving tips that both the Secret Service and the FBI had ongoing investigations of Trump.
The FBI stonewalled until after the election, even though Vice News implored them to release their information as a pressing matter of public interest – or to at least release a response that an investigation gave them legal authority to deny releasing the information or a denial. They instead sent a letter refusing to confirm or deny Vice’s questions about the FBI’s files on Donald Trump by postal mail which arrived on November 28th.
The FBI’s answer turned out to be far beyond ordinary, according to Vice News:
“The nature of your request implicates investigative records the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its broad criminal and national security investigative missions and functions,” said the bureau’s response, which is here. “Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any such records about your subject as the mere acknowledgment of such records existence or nonexistence would in and of itself trigger foreseeable harm to agency interests.” This response is highly suspicious.
This is what’s known as a Glomar response, a term that came into use after the CIA denied a reporter’s request in the 1970s for information about a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, designed to recover a sunken Russian submarine. The agency refused to either confirm or deny the ship’s existence. The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be withheld because disclosure would interfere with enforcement proceedings and disclose information vital for effective investigations. For one, it is extremely rare for the FBI to issue a Glomar.
I’ve [Vice’s Jason Leopold] filed thousands of requests with the bureau and I cannot recall ever receiving a Glomar. Typically, when a FOIA requester seeks information from the FBI on anything the bureau might be investigating, the FBI has explicit authority to deny the request, citing a pending investigation. However, because using that exemption would itself confirm to a requester that there’s an ongoing probe, the FBI has the authority under the FOIA to essentially lie and say it doesn’t have any documents — even when it does.
But the bureau did neither of those things. Instead, it said it could not confirm or deny that it has any documents concerning an investigation into Trump and/or his comments about Clinton.
Had the FBI simply done their jobs and released this information before the election, it would’ve been bombshell news that the Bureau would not confirm or deny that they had an investigation ongoing into Donald Trump while he was still the Republican nominee.
Again, as it says above, the FBI has legal permission to lie if there actually is an investigation to protect the target from the cloud of suspicion that comes from being under the federal law enforcement agency’s microscope.
Just like Russia obtained compromising material from both Democrats and Republicans, but only chose to release that of Democrats in an effort to tip the scales of the 2016 elections, the FBI disturbingly behaved in exactly the same manner.
Why? Was it to tilt the election in favor of Trump?
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition